Note from the Field: A Face Behind the Numbers in Rwanda
April 28, 2011
As the Senior Strategic Information Advisor for the Foundation in Rwanda
, I tend to spend most of my days sitting behind a computer in our office in Kigali, looking at data and writing reports.
Jill and Ziada near her home in Kibungo, Rwanda.
But one day a few weeks ago, I decided to get out from behind my desk and go see for myself the Foundation’s work in action.
It was for the other part of my other job, overseeing our external communications activities in Rwanda. Every quarter we collect success stories to share with one of our key U.S. government funders, USAID. These stories are meant to highlight individuals who have benefited from the Foundation’s programs, and show how the HIV/AIDS services we’ve helped provide have impacted them and their families.
I traveled with our Communications Officer, Esperance Nikuze, to the town of Kibungo to meet a woman who had received lifesaving services to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV
. Her name is Ziada.
Ziada found out she was HIV-positive while she was pregnant with her daughter, who is now 16 months old. She received antenatal and PMTCT services through a health center supported by the Foundation, and as a result, her daughter is HIV-negative. Ziada is also the mother of six other children, all of whom are HIV-negative.
Being HIV-positive doesn’t mean that she can stop being a mother and provider for her family. Her husband is in the military and frequently away from home, so Ziada bears a huge responsibility for caring for her family.
In fact, on the day we met her, we picked up Ziada at the construction site where she was working. She was lifting heavy stones to build a house.
Ziada with her daughter Shakila outside their home
in Kibungo, Rwanda. (Photo: EGPAF)
She took us to her home over her lunch break to meet her children and to understand her life a little better. Ziada lives in a small mud house on the hillside, about a 10-minute walk down a dirt path from the main road.
She does construction work when it’s available, and her older children attend school nearby. The community liaison from the health center visits her often to make sure that she and her children are doing well.
Ziada has received advice on nutrition and disease prevention from the community liaison, and also gets her own health checked regularly. She counts on the services provided by the center to keep both her and her children healthy.
Ziada has taken her HIV status in stride. She hasn’t let it dampen her smile or define who she is. It was a pleasure to see her in her home environment, and to see the strong bonds of affection between her and her children.
Ziada intends to live a very long life – long enough to see her children grow up and become happy and successful adults.
While she is buried among the data in the reports I look through every day – showing up as one woman who received antiretroviral drugs for PMTCT – meeting her reminded me what incredible people and stories lie behind each one of those numbers.
It’s easy to forget that in each data point, there is a person with a family and a story all their own.
And behind each of the mothers we provide PMTCT services to, there is a beautiful baby who has a chance at a healthy and HIV-free life.
Jill Peterson is a Senior Strategic Information Advisor for the Foundation, based in Kigali, Rwanda.